The Cougars (8-4, 6-2 Southwest Wake 4A) began the season with an unfamiliar roster that had to learn to play together, but 6-foot junior Alyssa Hansen said last week’s come-from-behind 3-2 win over Middle Creek could be a turning point. The strong play came after losing back-to-back matches to SWAC leaders Green Hope and Panther Creek.
“This is a huge confidence-booster for us,” she said. “I think we’re improving and ready to take on the rest of the season. We had great energy in Game 4, and Sunday gave us a boost. We’re playing together and not as individuals.”
Hansen led the Cougars with 20 kills. Natalie White added 12 kills and Madeline Rudd 10.
Leesville Road (10-2, 5-1) is atop the Cap-8 after becoming the first team to hand Broughton a regular-season loss in volleyball since 2014 as the Pride eked out a 3-2 win on its home floor last Thursday (16-25, 24-26, 25-12, 25-14, 15-10).
Leesville’s only conference loss was to Wakefield.
The Vikings (13-0, 5-0 Eastern Carolina 4A/3A) aren’t the tallest group but make up for it with strong service game, great defense and only sporadic attacking errors. Conley rolled to a comfortable 3-1 victory against previously undefeated New Bern on Tuesday.
“Our hitters were really working on trying to find the holes and they were able to find them. They were making their defense have to move and we were able to take them a little bit out of their offense game a little because of our attacks,” said coach Jennifer Gillikin. “We have a team that works really hard, and every ball they’re going to go after, and you can see it when they play. They’re not going to sit back and let a ball drop; they’re very focused.”
Conley was led by Caitlyn Smirne (31 assists), Samantha Dunn (13 kills), Alannah Thomas (25 kills, nine digs), Courtney Rupp (17 assists) and libero Rachel Bewick (three aces on seven serves).
“Our defense is one of the major things we work on and our defense keeps us going,” said Thomas, a junior who was celebrating her 16th birthday. “They dig up everything.”
Cleveland (8-4, 3-0 Two Rivers 3A) sits atop the Two Rivers 3A as the only team without a league loss. Junior Taylor Thomas said the Rams first had to learn to play together and now are gaining confidence in each other. She had 15 kills in a 3-1 win against Smithfield-Selma on Tuesday.
“The seniors were really good last year, so some people felt we weren’t as good as them,” Thomas said. “We’ve had to overcome that and just be the best we can be. We’re still working on gaining confidence.”
Bunn coach Henry Jones, he of 410 wins, and his Wildcats moved into second place outright in the Northern Carolina 2A with a 3-0 win Tuesday night against rival Franklinton (6-4, 5-2). Alexis McPhail had 17 kills and eight blocks for the Wildcats (9-5, 6-1).
“We would have been in a hole without Alexis,” Jones said. “In the third set, we were having trouble passing, so Alexis didn’t get many kill attempts. We got back to her in the fourth set. I thought that was important because I didn’t think (Franklinton) had an answer for her at the net.”
The Knights (4-12, 1-6 Greater Neuse River 4A) are learning under coach Shavoy Irving, the fourth head coach in as many seasons, and there are just three seniors.
“My goal is to stay (at Knightdale) and build a volleyball program,’’ said Irving, a former elite-level player for the Jamaica National Team. “When I got here, I know (the players) were saying ‘another coach again.’ I want to bring stability to the volleyball program here.’’
East Wake (3-12, 2-5 Greater Neuse River 4A), with only four seniors on its roster, has a unique coaching situation as skipper Keauna Vinson – a member of the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame – isn’t able to attend every match due to classes he is taking toward a doctorate degree.
Assistant coach Ashlee Harris has stepped in on several occasions, including Thursday, when Vinson had to leave after the first set.
“We are cousins and have been working together for three or four years,” Harris said. “We knew what each other expects, and we have the same routine. It has worked out pretty well. The only thing I stress to the team is that (Vinson) is still the head coach.”
The Eagles (7-4, 2-1), off to their best start since 2011, fell to Corinth Holders 3-0 on Tuesday.
“We’re improving on our serves, but we didn’t hit that well today,” said second-year Eagle coach Hallie Hales, whose team won just one match last year. “Corinth Holders did a good job placing the ball where we weren’t.”
The Rams (9-6, 4-3 Greater Neuse River 4A) sit fourth in the conference after Tuesday’s loss to Garner. Clayton, West Johnston and Garner lead the way.
“I thought we didn’t play very well at all,” said Rolesville coach Brian Harris. “I thought our offense and defense were slow. We didn’t play up to what we have been doing this season.”